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What is thrombosis and how can you avoid it?

Today is World Thrombosis Day, but what is thrombosis and how can you avoid it? Dr Stephen Tristram, Consultant vascular physician at BMI The Hampshire Clinic in Basingstoke explains what thrombosis is and signs to look out for.

What is thrombosis?

Thrombosis – or blood clots in veins and arteries - is a very common problem. If you include heart disease, cause of ischaemic stroke and venous thromboembolism, it accounts for 25% of deaths in the world.

However, the term thrombosis would mostly be assumed to be a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which affects approximately 5 people in 1,000 and increases with age.

What causes thrombosis?

It is commonly associated with long haul air travel when you are sitting still for a long time but this is difficult to prove. We do know that the risk is increased with dehydration and that might be the risk factor when flying. Blood flows away from the heart in vessels called arteries, and back to the heart in vessels called veins.

How to treat thrombosis

Aspirin has a very powerful effect on thrombosis in arteries but has little or no effect with thrombosis in veins. Aspirin also has a risk of a gastric bleed in the stomach area, which would be considered a significant danger on a long haul flight.

How can you reduce your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis?

You can reduce your risk of developing deep vein thrombosis. by drinking enough water, reducing your alcohol consumption and doing regular exercise such as walking and ankle flexion and wear good compression hosiery. If you have a history of a clot, or you are unwell especially if you are receiving cancer treatment, discuss possible medication with a doctor prior to travel.

What are the signs of deep vein thrombosis?

It's important to check for signs of a deep vein thrombosis. These include calf discomfort, leg swelling, and calf tenderness or redness. An early diagnosis is crucial as the earlier a clot is diagnosed the more effective a treatment is.

I recently held a number of evening mini consultations at BMI The Hampshire Clinic, seeing 39 patients over 3 weeks. One patient used the opportunity as a shortcut to an NHS appointment. Eighteen have chosen to be treated by me in an outpatient clinic and, so far, five have sought surgical treatment with a colleague. The opportunity for a free appointment was well received and everyone was appreciative.

You can find out more about thrombosis, including the signs and symptoms in our thrombosis consultant Q&A.


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